By Cameron Frostbaum
I have just celebrated the Jewish holiday of Shavuot to the fullest for the first time ever. Shavuot is the holiday where the Jewish people are given the gift of Torah from G-d.
The last couple days on my MEOR Israel trip have been incredibly special because we went from the most important Jewish holiday of Shabbat, which we get to celebrate every week, right into Shavuot. Shabbat in Jerusalem is an amazing thing. I was able to welcome Shabbat from the Kotel (Western Wall), and it felt incredible.
The MEOR rabbis took us to the Old City to welcome Shabbat and led us in the most beautiful songs the Jewish people have to offer. I felt connected to every Jew singing, dancing and praying with people from all over the world.
Shabbat is not about not being allowed to use your iPhone or watch TV, but about putting all those things away for 25 hours or so to reflect on what you hold to be important in your life and provide you with clarity of mind. I engaged in so many wonderful discussions and was able to appreciate some incredible lessons.
As Shabbat was coming to an end, I was so lucky to be able to welcome and celebrate Shavuot. Traditionally you stay up all night studying Torah and grappling with the deepest questions we have in life. What is Torah? What is Torah not? What does language mean to me? Who is G-d? Is G-d real? Who am I in the grand scheme of things?
It was all great preparation for law school.
What happened next affected me more than just about anything that has touched me in any way. Most people do not know this about me, but I am a descendant of the Kohens.
The Kohens refused to pray at the golden calf while Moses was receiving the Torah and the Ten Commandments. For our loyalty we were honored with the right to be the priests of all Israel and were given many priestly duties. This tradition passes through your father, and until my family came to the United States and before the Holocaust, we fulfilled many of these duties and were generations of rabbis in Europe.
What I was able to do at Shavuot touched me more deeply than I can ever express. One of the duties of the Kohens is to be a vessel for G-d to bless the Jewish people. During certain times Kohens raise our hands, and G-d places His hands on top of ours to bless all of Israel (all the Jewish people in the world).
This is a duty that my family has not been able to fulfill since we were forced to leave Israel and the second Temple was destroyed. I had never blessed someone except after a sneeze.
As the sun was rising over the hills of Jerusalem, we went to the Kotel to receive the gift of Torah from G-d. No greater gift has ever been given to the world. I was there with all of Israel at the Kotel, waiting to receive the Torah and watching the sun rise.
I was then told by Rabbi Yehoshua Styne (a great rabbi and a Kohen himself) to follow him. We cleaned and blessed our hands. A group of Kohens adorned in our prayer shawls, the wind stirring as the sun peeked its head, the sound of Jerusalem together in prayer, took our shoes off, and I fulfilled a sacred duty — a duty my ancestors, men much greater than I, were finally able to achieve through me.
I had never felt this way in my life. I felt as if I had such a significant purpose, such an indescribable unity with the world, and I could not speak afterward. My voice was not mine but part of a whole, and all of the Jewish people were blessed by G-d. I was just a small part of that, but I was a part of that.
I was afraid, proud, excited and a million other feelings (including drained of all my energy). I am still processing what happened and what it all means, but I have never felt more accomplished — an accomplishment not just for me, but for all those who came before me and all those to come as the Jewish people thrive in the future.
Next year in Jerusalem is no longer a dream; it is real.